Despite a controversial past and a place among the most frequently disciplined officers, the new head of Chicago’s police union said he’s ready to take the organization in a “new direction” following his election victory.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara said he’s “not too concerned” with the opinions of outside critics, but he also struck a hopeful tone that he’ll be able to secure what the union has lacked for nearly three years: a contract with the city.
“I think the members want a voice,” he said during an appearance on “Chicago Tonight” Thursday evening. “They are the forgotten voice, they are unfortunately battered, repeatedly, in the media, unappreciated at City Hall for the most part.”
The FOP last week announced that Catanzara had defeated one-term incumbent Kevin Graham in a runoff election, earning 55% of the vote.
The union has been without a contract since July 2017.
Despite an icy relationship between the FOP and Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Catanzara said he’s “optimistic” the sides can work toward a new agreement following a “cordial, productive” first meeting with the city’s lead negotiator this week.
Though the FOP has an outstanding demand for arbitration, Catanzara said the current plan is to head back into negotiations with the city and postpone the arbitration process.
Catanzara appeared Sunday on Fox News following his runoff victory, where he acknowledged that while he has detractors within his own union. But he said his job is to “convert the detractors and get them to understand that this is what’s needed in this time and date.”
After that appearance, President Donald Trump tweeted a message of congratulations to the new union head, saying he always “gets the job done.”
Catanzara was reprimanded in 2017 for violating a rule that prohibits on-duty officers from political activity when he posted pictures of himself in uniform carrying a sign in support of Trump, the Second Amendment and the American flag.
In his 25 years on the force, Catanzara has received no major awards, but six honorable mentions – more than 55% of officers. But according to the Citizens Police Data Project, he has also been the subject of 50 allegations – more than 96% of Chicago police officers.
Catanzara is currently on administrative duty after being stripped of his police powers following a police report he filed against Eddie Johnson when the former superintendent took part in an unsanctioned anti-violence protest in July 2018 that closed down the Dan Ryan Expressway.
He believes that case should have been closed following Johnson’s termination last fall. Catanzara said he spoke this week with current Superintendent David Brown who “vowed to look into it.”
Catanzara described himself Thursday as someone who is “not afraid to speak out, that knows how to articulate a point with a little authority to get some things done.”
“I’m not gonna back down from anybody,” he said. “I know what I’m talking about and I know how to get things done. Failure is not an option.”